Doctor Brown (2 stars)

This article is from 2011

Doctor Brown

Silent and vulgar tedium

Surrealism and silent comedy have a long and healthy relationship. Ask Mack Sennett, Charlie Chaplin or Buster Keaton. You’d have to dig them up first, but that may be preferable to spending time with the hirsute Doctor Brown. In his silk dressing gown and Victorian smoking hat, Brown is every inch the inept performing mystic. If it wasn’t for the very modern vulgarity, he could have just stepped out of a Gold Rush-era saloon bar.

An hour of near-silent comedy is a big ask for a modern audience, and if you trade on a few stock poses and routines – the crucifixion, a confused bug-eyed child, the silly savant and silent pervert – the minutes crawl by. This anaemic vaudeville occasionally shudders into life, usually with the help of an audience member as Brown mimes (badly) the act of sticking his lotus flower in places where the sun doesn’t shine.

The trouble is that the Doctor has next to no material, the running joke is that you are witnessing a deliberately badly-executed show by a real talent. But the art of making bad showmanship come good can be achieved only with an understanding of some basics of comedy. More stick than slap.

Underbelly, 0844 545 8252, until 28 Aug (not 15), 9.50pm, £9.50–£10.50 (£8.50–£9.50).


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